R.I. to launch first 24/7 mental health, substance-use triage, call center Nov. 14

EAST PROVIDENCE – The state’s first triage and 24/7 hotline call center for overdose and addiction crises, the $1.4 million Behavioral Health Link, will open its doors on Nov. 14.

On Friday, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo and R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Director Rebecca Boss will tour BH Link at 975 Waterman Ave., the state’s answer to costly and inappropriate visits to local hospitals and emergency departments for those Rhode Islanders experiencing a mental health or substance-use crisis.

Jim Ryczek, CEO of Horizon Healthcare Partners, which won the BHDDH bid to run the center, said the center will be open to anyone in such crises regardless of insurance coverage. People who call or visit the center will be guided toward the proper care for their condition, he said, and in a calming environment with people trained to handle their specific needs. Currently, people experiencing a mental health or substance-use crisis find an unhelpfully overstimulating environment in emergency rooms.

“The atmosphere in an emergency room is not really conducive to calming someone who is having a psychotic break or substance-use withdrawal,” Ryczek said.

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Ryczek said the center will eventually make use of a cab and Uber contract as well as a nonemergency ambulance contract to transport people from around the state.

The BHDDH funding for the center comes from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Ryczek said. He said he’ll need another $1.3 million to expand the service into a mobile unit. That funding will hopefully be part of a future grant, he said.

The BH Link will also receive about $200,000 to take over the 942-STOP line for opioid-recovery assistance for people experiencing an opioid crisis and matching them with safe beds. The center will also manage the state’s suicide hotline, Ryczek said. He noted Horizon Healthcare Partners will also continue to manage the separate 414 link number for general behavioral health questions.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com